Changing Young Lives through Music & Theater

“It’s so much more than tutoring . . .” — Ross Fairweather, Willow Valley Communities resident and volunteer coordinator.

Willow Valley’s community outreach efforts often focus on children in the School District of Lancaster. Consider these troubling statistics: over 90% of the children in the School District of Lancaster live below the poverty line, and there is at least one homeless child in every Lancaster city school. Willow Valley Communities has created a number of initiatives that aim to help.

Ross Fairweather, Willow Valley Communities resident and volunteer coordinator.

Resident Ross Fairweather is the volunteer leader and coordinator of a Willow Valley Communities tutoring partnership for the School District of Lancaster. She organizes Willow Valley resident volunteers who provide academic and music tutoring to students in the school district. This partnership has made a huge difference in the children’s lives, as well as in the hearts of the Willow Valley Communities residents who serve them.

“It’s so much more than tutoring,” says Ross. “So many students are facing adverse situations—homelessness, or a parent who is incarcerated, for example. There’s not enough classroom time for every student to learn everything.”

Ross was recently acknowledged for her efforts as one of eight recipients of local television station WGAL’s and PSECU’s (Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union) prestigious “8 Who Care” Award. She was honored for her extraordinary commitment to the children of Carter & MacRae Elementary School in the School District of Lancaster.

Ross says the tutoring in music education that residents provide is especially beneficial, as it helps students in a variety of ways. Developing musical skills not only gives a child a joyful activity that will last a lifetime, but music has also been found to help children develop in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Willow Valley Communities agrees, and believes so much in the importance of music education that we have collaborated with Music for Everyone (MFE) to create a special music partnership for the School District of Lancaster. MFE is a non-profit organization in Lancaster providing millions in grants, scholarships, and direct programs to support the arts in Lancaster. MFE provides an instrument for every 4th or 5th grade student who is mentored by a Willow Valley Communities resident who plays the piano, clarinet, flute, trumpet, or violin.

Willow Valley Communities first became involved with MFE through Keys to the City, one of MFE’s most visible annual programs. About fifteen brightly decorated pianos, sponsored by Willow Valley Communities and other area businesses, are placed throughout Lancaster from May to October. It’s a bright, visible commitment Willow Valley Communities has to MFE, the arts, and the city of Lancaster.

Willow Valley Communities believes other forms of artistic expression are vital, which is why we have become a leading corporate sponsor of PRiMA Theatre of Lancaster. PRiMA provides in-school creative programs, hands-on technical experience, and professional behind-the-scenes and on-stage programs for children and youth. These experiences help build creative thinking skills, inspire academic performance, and give students important skills applicable to the job market. PRiMA also provides low- to no-cost tickets for students, guardians, and teachers to attend PRiMA productions and participate in master classes.

Willow Valley Communities also understands the unique challenges some Lancaster high school seniors have when faced with college or trade school application fees, or when they must purchase clothing and supplies for a new job after high school graduation. In response, Willow Valley residents and team members recently held their first annual Cornhole for a Cause Tournament fundraiser, which raised $7,000 to help Lancaster high school seniors fund these expenses.

Willow Valley Communities residents believe strongly in engaging in and fostering a truly inspired life—a life filled with passion, excitement, and meaning. These meaningful pursuits in life—the ones where we help others in need— are those that affect us the most. They are also the experiences we remember the most and continue to touch us as we pursue a Life Lived Forward.

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